Career Resolution for 2013: Get an Advanced Degree in Life Experience

| January 8, 2013

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A friend recently echoed what a lot of people seem to think these days, “Having a bachelor’s degree these days is like having a high school diploma. Everyone has one in something. To get ahead in your career, you’re going to need something more than a bachelor’s degree.” So, the new trend is to get a master’s/advanced degree to stay ahead of the game. The problem is that, now, everyone is getting a master’s degree in something. As I’ve advanced in my career I’ve noticed a few shocking realities. An advanced degree isn’t all there is to advanced learning.

There are several career paths that don’t require an advanced degree and don’t require extensive accumulation of debt to take your career to the next level. Master’s degrees seem like a great idea—two little letters that add big value to your cultural cachet—but back in the real world, the general 30-something year-old career woman needs cheaper, less time consuming options to spice up her job prospects. Do you really need to invest another $30K to take your career to the next level? Absolutely not!

The solution lies in taking a holistic view of education, understanding that it is not just about a degree, but a journey of self-discovery that might sharpen up one’s resume. Communication is an essential component of an educated mind. Being able to articulate and get a point across an unequal playing field will take you places in any given career. Here are some edifying community learning experiences that are sure to transform your professional trajectory, and hopefully your body and soul, without the burden of acquiring extra debt:

Take a creative writing class – In today’s advanced technological world, writing is a major skill that can boost a dwindling career. Self-expression through blogs, writing columns, memoirs or short essays not only help to build your communication skills, but can also be a source of extra income. Taking a creative writing class can also help boost your resume, as almost every career today requires some level of writing competence. Most cities have community colleges that offer affordable creative writing classes that won’t break the bank. A quick online search can help you locate these resources.

Learn a new language – Some career paths seek to invest in people with diverse cultural influences such as the ability to speak a second language. Traveling to other countries is a sure way of acquiring such a skill. The two – travelling and learning a new language – do not necessarily go hand in hand, but it doesn’t hurt if you can afford it. Plus, you’ll not only be enhancing your resume and earning potential in our multilingual society, but you’ll also be getting a vacation out of it! If you can’t afford to travel, you can learn a new language right here at home. Again, your local community college is a good place to start. There are other inexpensive ways, such as audio tapes and “teach your-self a new language” software.

Volunteer – This is so far the most inexpensive and most innovative way to brush up your resume. Serve on a board, take on leadership roles on committees and engage in other interactive learning experiences while volunteering your time and expertise/experience. It not only helps boost your resume, but your communication skills as well. Beyond the self-serving reasons of how good service looks on a resume, learning to think collaboratively, and act as a team player and a leader, shapes the kinds of workplaces that empower workers.  Moreover, acting in service to others is important, plain and simple.

Take an interest in politics and public policy – At its center, education is about formulating identity. Studying politics means working to understand who we are in the context of our national, cultural, ethnic, and linguistic selves; who our neighbors are; and how we can continue to shape the kind of society we cohabit. Being politically and policy competent has a more direct benefit of offering you the ability to intelligently discuss current events with prospective and current employers. Lots of Africans shun American politics with the excuse of not having a vote. Well, if not for your vote, at least be well-versed for the sake of your career. No matter what your industry, an informed, critical-thinking mind is a major asset.

We, as a people need to understand that education isn’t just about degrees. Education is about learning not just in the classroom, but outside the classroom and is just as much about learning as it is about experience. Learning helps us to draw out what we didn’t know we had inside, to lead ourselves and others out into other ways of conceptualizing the world. This sounds much more exciting than writing a thesis.  That’s an advanced degree called life experience.

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